So here I am, doing some work while I’m listening to Pandora, and lo and behold Eluvietie comes on (if you’re into melodic folk Celtic death metal sung in ancient Gallic, they’re right up your alley). I was immediately taken back to two weeks ago, when I was dragged out of the house to see them live at a metal show nearby.
You have to understand; I’m thirty-three years old. The last time I went to a metal show, I was in high school and Type O Negative was touring Long Island. I walked in there that evening two weeks ago and I was surrounded by kids a good ten to twelve years younger than me, and suddenly I felt like my second favorite fictional African-American police officer (Sergeant Al Powell still holds a special place in my heart).
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with music for as long as I can remember: usually I love music but hate the kind of people that listen to it. Some of this is from just not understanding how anyone can get that worked up over someone like Kenny G or Justin Beiber, while other times it’s just wondering if people really think that there’s been a voice better than Freddie Mercury’s in the last twenty years (protip: there hasn’t).
Full disclosure here: I am an old-school metalhead. We’re talking Headbanger’s Ball on MTV, back when the M stood for “music,” the kind of complete sold-out arena power metal you used to get back in the 1980’s, dripping with blistering harmonized riffs and long-haired dirtbags singing incomprehensibly about anything they wanted while they strutted around the stage completely unironically in enough black leather to put Tom of Finland into a sex coma; see every single Iron Maiden album ever if you’re unsure of what this particular genre sounds like.
I was serious about this shit. Hell, I went full immersion in the early 1990’s, going so deep as to even grow a mullet and play in what was pretty much the most awful Metallica cover band ever. Nowadays I keep my hair short and there’s not much black in my wardrobe, but I’ve got fond memories of butchering the Black album like a Jewish serial killer.
All these memories came flooding back when I stepped into that little music hall where the show was two weeks ago. All of a sudden I was a kid back in my hometown, the now-defunct Roxy in Huntington, NY. Hell, I was even wearing my ancient 14-eyelet Doc Martins that night. The Roxy had been a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but I had seen some great shows there – I knew my childhood had come to an end when they tore it down and turned the site into an evangelical church. Stumbling from that place late at night, reeking of spilt beer and cigarette smoke, ears ringing and feeling both bone weary and invigorated all at once, you knew you had just had a transcendent experience.
This new place I went to two weeks ago was nothing like that, of course. First of all, it was clean and well-lit. Hell, the bathrooms even had doors on the toilet stalls – doors with latches, no less! Not only that, but metal has evolved quite a bit since the 80’s and 90’s, considering the lead singer of the opening act looked like the love-child of Billie Joe Armstrong and the guy from Third Eye Blind. Apparently Canadian metal is very clean-cut.
I was actually taken aback at how good the first band was, considering it’s an unwritten rule that the opening act is almost universally terrible. The second act made up for it in a hurry, though, especially after trying to rile up the crowd by saying that their next song about Valhalla was going to be so awesome that it would be “like Skyrim, only the dragons have titties.” I wish I was making that up. Considering the people I was with were almost all devout Asatruar, I thought there was going to be a riot.
Luckily, Eluvietie was next, and they were excellent. Somehow my friends suckered me into going into the pit. Now, I’m a big guy; I’m not the tallest but I’ve got plenty of extra padding, and I ended up sending some scrawny little kids flying while I got caught up in the current. I finally fought my way to the edge and played rodeo clown for the rest of the set, picking up people that had gone sprawling, dusting them off, and shoving them back into the roiling ball of death in the center as the band played on.
I have to admit that I had fun. Was it exactly the same? Of course not – the biggest difference being that I needed a couple of aspirin the next morning. And while the metal scene may not be like it was when I grew up, I still had a great time.
Still, didn’t hold a candle to the Roxy.